As Johnson Chuang notes, the tooth on the left has been drawn with standard colours while the one on the right uses colours that require up to 40-per-cent less energy on an OLED display with a minimal loss of detail.

Limited-colour displays could boost phone life

July 23, 2009

Three SFU computing scientists have developed a way to create limited-colour displays for devices such as cell phones that could improve battery life by as much as 40 per cent with a minimal reduction in perceived image quality.

Using next-generation organic light-emitting diode (OLED) screens, set to replace LCD displays, master’s student Johnson Chuang and his supervisors Torsten Möller and Daniel Weiskopf have developed a set of screen colours that draw less energy than other colours.

With OLEDs, each pixel on the screen is made from a tiny spot of polymer that emits coloured light when supplied with power. And in contrast to LCD panels, which use the same amount of energy regardless of colour hue, different OLED lights use varying amounts of energy.

At the same intensity, for example, yellow uses less energy than magenta.

Chuang, the lead researcher on this project, says his group’s use of "energy aware" colours could spark the discovery of more creative and inventive ways to use them in mobile graphics applications.

And the technology could save lives as well as energy. "Say you’re running low on battery and you want to use Google Maps to get home," says the Taiwanese native. "Switching to an energy-aware colour set could make your battery last longer."

Chuang, who credits his supervisors with guiding his research and graduate studies, plans to pursue a career in colour science that includes research and commercial development.

The researchers’ paper, Energy Aware Color Sets, was presented at Eurographics 2009 in Munich, Germany, and published in the conference’s journal Computer Graphics Forum.